‘Faker didn’t hold back’: League of Legends phenom could be a Muay Thai natural, says fighter

Thai-Chinese fighter Tanet ‘Jacky’ Puangngoen on meeting the South Korean e-sports legend, and how League helps him unwind amid brutal training camps

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 April, 2018, 11:57am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 April, 2018, 9:36pm

South Korean League of Legends (LoL) phenom Lee Sang-hyeok – better known as Faker – is considered the greatest player  in the game. But do not let his slender figure deceive you.

Not only is the SKT T1 mid laner hyper dexterous on the keys, he has a knack for punching pads and kneeing bags, according to the Hong Kong Muay Thai fighter who held them.

“Faker left the biggest impression. He was very competitive and I could see why he’s the world No 1,” said Thai-Chinese fighter Tanet ‘Jacky’ Puangngoen (professional record 19 wins 9 losses), who featured in a video teaching Muay Thai basics to some of League’s biggest stars, including Faker, Doublelift and Bjergsen.

“When I taught him to do this or that he wouldn’t stop, even when the shooting was over,” added Puangngoen. “He was all in and didn’t hold back during the pad work. I kind of idolise him so it was a special moment to share my passion with them all.”

The e-sports starsalso received traditional customised Muay Thai shorts, with the 2016 EU LCS All-Star team (Soaz, Jankos, Xpeke and Rekkles) fashioning it in their next match. Puangngoen added he also established a friendship with Soaz, who is currently with League team Fnatic.

Watch: top League of Legends players train Muay Thai with Jacky

Puangngoen himself rose to League stardom last year after his inspiring story appeared in documentary Fight, in which he discussed balancing his love for Riot Games’ popular multiplayer online battle arena and preparing for the Hong Kong Muay Thai Championship final.

“It was by far the most special moment in my life,” said the 29-year-old. “League of Legends is my favourite game and I couldn’t wait to show the world my two passions. Having professional film crews following me around Hong Kong and Thailand was awesome – I felt like a celebrity for a second.”

Puangngoen lost the bout but vows to avenge the defeat in the same event this May.

“I ran out of stamina,” he said. “[I won] every round of the tournament until the last 50 seconds in the final round of the final.

“I was crushed. I felt like I let my brother, my coach, my friends and the film crew who came all the way from America down. I collapsed and cried on my knees, face to the floor for 40 minutes. I didn’t look or talk to anyone.

“My brother, who I care the most about in the world, was there to watch me fight for the first time … hundreds of kilometres of jogging, hundreds of hours of preparation, all for nothing.

“It was haunting me for a year. It’s unfinished business and I need to win the Hong Kong championship before I retire.”

Amid the hellish training and “puking in between” sparring sessions ahead of the redemption fight, Puangngoen often turns to LoL as a distraction.

“I have spent over 10,000 hours playing League,” said Puangngoen, who only ever uses champion dunk-master Darius when he plays. “Just like any sport, it takes forever to master and there is a ranking system.

“I’m currently Platinum rank [fourth tier] and I rank the Muay Thai world in a similar way. Buakaw [Banchamek], Saenchai [Suphachai Saenpong] and Yodsanklai [Fairtex] are Challengers [top tier] – like Faker or Doublelift.

“I wouldn’t say League helps my Muay Thai directly, but it helps me relax. You have to put your mind away sometimes – you can’t have Muay Thai 24/7.”

But whether it is via Pentakill or technical knockout, a win is a win in Puangngoen’s book.

“Professional gamers are no different from athletes. They have to work hard and [sacrifice] many things, taking risks to chase their dreams.

“The sense of accomplishment I get when I win in League is similar to when I win a fight.”